Everyone experiences life changing heartbreaks, disappointments, and tragedy. We lose a loved one or have our own futures snatched from us. Our lives are turned upside down.
But people are resilient. Out of the Holocaust came newly forged families. Countries rebuild following civil wars, genocides, and natural disasters. The past tragedies become our new normal. We live and adapt. There is substantial research on grief and our ability to move on.
So what if our lives were literally turned upside down? In 1950, Ivo Kohler and Theodor Erismann documented their experiments in human perception at the university of Innsbruck, Austria. Kohler wore a unique pair of glasses that used mirrors to make the world appear upside down. At first he had difficulty with everything from pouring tea to grabbing a pen. Up was down and down was up. He found it very difficult to function.
However as time went on Kohler adapted. At first it took work and practice. He had to get out of bed and try really hard just to complete everyday tasks that had been second nature before. It was frustrating. But every day became a little easier. Every day had a new accomplishment. And after two weeks his life was normal again.
When we face personal tragedy it feels as though our world is turned upside down. We lose our ability to function. Daily activities become a struggle and we just want to give up. But research and personal experience has shown me that people are resilient. The kids and adults I have worked with in shelters and respite centers evidence the fact that terrible things happen that completely change every aspect of our lives. But everyone can regain control of their life.
Two weeks – and the world will start to turn right side up.
Kohler, I. (1964). The Formation and Transformation of the Perceptual World. New York: International Universities Press.
Gregory, R. L. (1998). “Eye and Brain.” The Psychology of Seeing fifth edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 138 -190.
Stratton, G. M. (1897). “Vision without inversion of the retinal image.” Psychological Review. (4) 341, 360-463.